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Valentine’s Day

As seen in The Seasonal Chef. Column 6, February 13, 2014.

Mignonette Sauce for oysters on the half shell, My heart “beets” for you salad, Roasted Yukon Gold fingerling potatoes, Roasted fillet fresh cod, Dark chocolate sauce for dipping.  A romantic dinner i the best way to say “I love you!”

A romantic dinner is the best way to say I Love You for Valentine’s Day!

Start the evening with ice-cold champagne or Proseco and oysters on the half-shell with lemon slices and Mignonette sauce in the living room. If your Valentine like to cook, ask for help drizzling the dressing on the pre-arranged salad while you place the fish in the oven (be sure to set the timer!) and reheat the potatoes. Then sit down for the first course.

Uncork a Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc to drink with the main course, set the chocolate sauce in a pan of hot water to warm up while you eat.

For the finale, dip long stemmed strawberries into the chocolate sauce and feed each other! Happy Valentines Day and Bon Appétit!

MIGNONETTE SAUCE – for oysters on the half shell

About one cup
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 large shallots, minced

To prepare:

Grind the peppercorns and sift through a strainer to remove the finer particles. Measure out one and one-half teaspoons into a small bowl. Store the remainder for later use.

Add vinegar and shallots to the pepper and whisk until blended transfer to a glass jar and refrigerate for at least one day or up to one month. Pour into small dipping bowl and serve with oysters on the half shell.

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Serves two

1 ripe Haas avocado, halved and sliced
About 1 tablespoon fresh limejuice for drizzling
1 seedless navel orange sections, peeled and sections cut out, juices reserved
2 or 3 hearts of palm, drained and sliced
4 to 5 scallions, trimmed and sliced
1 red beet, roasted, peeled and diced
2 or 4 perfect leaves from the heart of Boston or Bibb lettuce, washed and patted dry
For the dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons good quality mayonnaise
1 to 2 teaspoons fig infused white balsamic vinegar
Accumulated orange and limejuice
About 4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To prepare:

In a small bowl, roll avocado slices in limejuice to prevent discoloring and set aside.
Hold the orange over a bowl to catch the juice as you remove the peel, pith, and sections. Place orange sections in bowl.

In another bowl, toss hearts of palm and scallions together.
Meanwhile whisk mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar, and accumulated citrus juices together. Slowly add oil, whisking until the mixture becomes an emulsion, taste and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To assemble, place lettuce leaves on salad plate. Gently combine avocado and orange with hearts of palm and spoon the mixture into the lettuce. Set aside.

Just before serving, sprinkle diced beets on top and drizzle dressing over the top.

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Serves two

About 10 to 12 Yukon fold fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Malden salt for sprinkling

To prepare:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a shallow baking dish, arrange potatoes in one layer, drizzle with oil, and bake until the skin is brown and crisp on outside and tender in the center, about twenty to twenty-five minutes. The cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Serves two

8 to 12 ounces fresh cod fillet, trimmed of dark fat
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt for browning
2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
About 1 cup oil cured pitted black olives
Juice of one lemon
About 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
For the topping:
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes or more to taste
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves (whole)
About 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

To prepare:

In a non-reactive mixing bowl, toss tomatoes and capers together then drizzle just enough oil on the mixture until it glistens, taste and season with pepper and set aside.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Heat shallow baking dish large enough to hold the fish in one layer in the oven.
Rinse fish, pat dry with paper towels and season with pepper.

In a heavy skillet over high heat scatter the skillet with kosher salt. When the pan is very hot (the salt with “pop”) sear the fish until brown on all sides, about two minutes per side. Transfer cod to baking dish. Arrange olives around the fish and drizzle lemon juice, vermouth, and olive oil on top and bake until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, about eight to ten minutes. The cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish. Transfer fish to warm dinner plates, Pour the pan juices over the tomatoes and capers, stir in chopped parsley and spoon it over the fish, arrange parsley leaves over the whole affair and serve at once with roasted potatoes.

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Yield about one and one-half cups

8 ounces of dark chocolate (your favorite brand), broken into small pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar

To prepare:

Place chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and set aside. In a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, bring heavy cream, butter, salt, and sugar to a simmer and whisk to blend. Immediately pour hot cream over the chocolate and let stand about three to four minutes, whisk until smooth. Transfer to clean glass jar and set aside. Can be done ahead. To reheat, set the jar of sauce in a pan of hot, not boiling, water and heat until the sauce is pourable.
Wipe long stemmed strawberries clean with paper towels. Arrange on plate with bowl of chocolate sauce in the center.

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